Our quest to defy the ageing process is taking massage into a new territory, but what’s right for you?
If the media storm around Prince Harry and his wife Meghan had you clenching your jaw earlier this year, there’s good news: Meghan herself has sparked an explosion of interest in a treatment that can help. Her patronage of Scottish facialist Nichola Joss caused tongues to wag, not least because Joss has become renowned for her ‘inner facial’ in which she works inside the mouth to massage tissues from within. The technique can release tension from the jaw but has also been hailed as a ‘natural facelift’ for its lifting and sculpting effect. So, is it for you?
Intraoral or ‘buccal’ massage involves a therapist using a gloved finger to squeeze, stroke and massage muscles and tissue from inside your mouth. “’Buccal’ has become popular as a term to describe inter-oral work but it’s actually the name of a muscle that holds a lot of tension and is therefore where the treatment can be focused,” says Anna Tsankova, a ‘skinologist’ who counts Madonna and Yasmin Le Bon as clients (beautopiauk.com). “The sculpting effect is a really popular anti-ageing benefit, but also a major factor when you have buccal treatment is the release of muscle tension, as most of us tend to hold stress in this area.”
“When you remove tension and stress from muscle tissue and stimulate the lymph system, it allows muscles to soften,” says Nichola Joss, who splits her practice between Harley Street and Manhattan (Nicholajoss.com). “Freeing muscle from heaviness adds volume and bounce, which in turn makes muscles sit in their natural space, adding to a more contoured, sculpted effect.” “It’s a kind of double work,” says therapist Beata Aleksandrowicz (beata.website), who offers the technique from her Notting Hill studio. “When you work on the face, you address all the muscles but you also have the possibility to work under them. It’s more intensive but more effective; you increase blood circulation, which means more oxygen, which increases glow in the face, and helps the muscles to work properly. It also increases collagen production. Does that mean that without inner mouth work you have no results? Absolutely not; you can have amazing results with a classic face massage, but this is a benefit on top.”
“We focus on the jawline and cheek muscle area, but also under the cheekbones where tension and puffiness sits,” says Nichola. “Also, working on the lymph nodes around the mouth and lip area allows better cell rejuvenation and softer upper lip muscles which improve the ageing lines. When you remove the tension it releases the muscle and any pollution, puffiness and tightness. It also releases any emotional stress which we hold in this area.”
BeautopiaUK offers a unique massage that combines several elements to give maximum results, but it’s not cheap: one-hour sessions that include an element of buccal massage cost £135. “You see results pretty instantly, for example, cheekbones will look higher after one treatment,” says Anna. “But to retain the results of course we recommend regular treatments. It’s like going to the gym: you don’t get fit with one workout, you have to have repeat sessions to get results and place the muscles where they should be.” A one-off treatment prior to a wedding or special event is common, but long-term improvement requires monthly sessions to maintain the effect. “Some get it once or twice a week if they want to look absolutely fabulous,” says Anna. “We did the Baftas and the National TV awards recently; for those events people prepare a month in advance having intensive treatments.” That’s some serious cash, and BeautopiaUK is by no means the most expensive option. A one-hour Bespoke Sculpting Inner Facial from Nichola Joss costs £350. Beata charges £185 for a one-hour session of her Aleksandrowicz System Face Cure.
Approaches vary from the most sculpting manipulations of muscles – involving a kneading of the muscles – to a relaxing caress around areas that rarely experience human touch. So does it hurt? “That depends on the therapist,” says Beata. “Do you have to feel bruised to get great results? Absolutely not. I personally don’t believe ‘no pain, no gain’.” In fact Beata’s 20 years experience of deep tissue massage has led her to believe pain is detrimental to results. “If you work an area too strongly, muscles will contract, especially in the mouth which is a very intimate area, and that’s a vicious circle,” she suggests. “I believe you can use the technique gently and it will be just as effective.”
Just as with body massage, your sensitivity to touch will depend on the amount of tension your muscles are holding, and how the therapist adapts their pressure accordingly. “Touch is psychologically soothing; if you start to mess that up by offering a bruising experience this whole concept of an emotional release is gone,” says Beata. If a person goes through a healing process, their body calms down.”
Top facialist Nichola Joss shares a simple trick. With clean, gloved hands…
1. Keeping your jaw soft and relaxed, use your thumb inside your mouth to gently sweep from the lower jawline chin area along to the back.
2. Use a curve move to slide your thumb to the upper jaw cheekbone area and glide forwards towards the lip area.
3. Using your index finger [on your face] and thumb [inside the mouth], gently massage the upper lip area to remove tension and plump lips.
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